December 24, 2003
Church Concerned With Situation in Kosovo and Metohija
EDITORIAL BY FR. SAVA JANJIC
Rugova woos to Vatican in order to hide Kosovo's bleak reality
ERP KiM Info-service
During his recent visit to the Vatican Kosovo (Albanian)
President Ibrahim Rugova
Although he has never publicly condemned destruction of more than 100 Serbian Orthodox churches in Kosovo after the end of armed conflict in 1999 and never visited any Orthodox church in the Province (in which, by the way, more than 90% of the cultural-historical heritage belongs to Serbian Orthodox tradition) Ibrahim Rugova persistently tries to involve the Roman Catholic Church in his political machinations. His trump card is the tiny Roman Catholic community in Kosovo led by Bishop Marko Sopi who under pressure of Moslem majority refused to participate in the R. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Serbia and Montenegro, to which Kosovo officially belonged, and requested his "diocese" to be under special jurisdiction of the Holy See. The Vatican, its appears, had no choice but to establish the so called Apostolic administrature for Kosovo, because, as R.Catholic Archbishop in Belgrade explained "the people needed pastoral care" until the political situation clears up. Some analysts saw this decision as a compromise with Albanian secessionism because the Vatican is known for caution in any kind of prejudicing the change of international borders. Bishop Sopi on the other hand seems to be too week (or unwilling perhaps) to resist to some of his "black hawks" led by Fr. Shan Zefi who is in close relations with ultra-nationalist Kosovo Albanian groups and parties. Some of Sopi's and Zefi's statements, loudly supported and spread by some Albanian political leaders and intellectuals, among which is Ibrahim Rugova, were the reason why Serbian Orthodox Bishop Artemije suspended his participation in the interreligious dialogue in Kosovo until further notice. At the moment the Vatican is trying through Msgr. Vincenzo Paglia (St. Eugidio) to mediate in the problem, but the tiny Roman Catholic community in Kosovo which is led by radicals seems to be too weak to articulate its free position and resist pressure of the Moslem majority and especially the former KLA circles dominated by Moslems: Hashim Thaci, Ramush Haradinaj and Mustafa Remi.
Despite the fact that Kosovo Albanians have already been criticized by many renown international organizations for protection of religious rights as a territory in which Christianity is under oppression, Mr. Rugova keeps ignoring continuation of anti-Christian campaign by his Moslem compatriots and tries to hide himself and his people behind moral authorities of the Pope and Mother Theresa. Erection of the monument to Mother Theresa at the same time when hundreds of Serb Christian monuments and graveyards are being turned into ashes shows at its best the ambivalent position of Kosovo Albanians towards Christian tradition in general. In fact, sudden wooing to the Roman Catholicism and attending of Catholic masses by crowds of young Moslem Albanians is seen by some more objective analysts as nothing but an attempt to present themselves as a part of the Western Civilization and secede from Serbia with the help of the Pope. However, the mentality is not so easily changed. Kosovo Albanians in their outward appearance can hardly be seen as fundamentalists but their culture, history and way of life bears the strong influence of Islam. Kosovo cities, houses surrounded by high walls and rural society in which women are discriminated have little in common with the rest of Europe and the Christian tradition, especially as long as more than 100 Serbian Christian shrines destroyed by Albanian extremists "cry to the heavens". In more than four years after the conflict Bishop Artemije could not reconstruct a single one of his destroyed shrines simply because they would be destroyed again.
These ruins speak much louder than pathetic photos of Ibrahim Rugova with the Pope. While repression against Orthodox Christians in Kosovo continues even the Roman Catholic Archbishop in Belgrade agreed that Kosovo Roman Catholics are endangered too. "Since the expectations and tendencies of the majority population (Albanian Moslems, ed.) are very different the Catholic community who always wanted to cooperate is under pressure", admitted Archbishop Hocevar in his Christmas interview to the Danas daily (see the interview down).
It is well known that the relations between Orthodox and R.Catholics in Kosovo used to be based on mutual tolerance and solidarity in the past, particularly during the Ottoman occupation when Christians in general were oppressed population and Albanian Moslems enjoyed all social and economic privileges. The things started to change in the second half of the 19th century when Albanian nationalists created a new formula: "Albanians is the religion of Albanians". Since then Kosovo R. Catholics regularly side with their Moslem compatriots against Christian Serbs and their Western allies in both World wars, as well as in the KLA insurrection in 1998-1999.
The right way to improve interreligious relations in Kosovo is definitely not in making any kind of Moslem-Catholic alliance against the Orthodox Church but to publicly recognize the religious and property rights of the Serbian Orthodox Church with its shrines and condemn all acts of religious vandalism and intolerance. Regrettably, Mr. Rugova and the part of the Roman Catholic clergy in Kosovo are doing exactly the opposite. As early as August 1995 Mr. Rugova publicly stated "that the monasteries and churches in Kosovo were Albanian and that the Serbs occupied them, destroying in the process a large number of Albanian churches" - a theory which is not based on a single historical proof. Serbian Orthodox Church strongly protested because such false theories became a part of historical curricula in the Kosovo Albanian schools. Roman Catholic Bishop Marko Sopi instead of taking a position of solidarity with the suffering Christians justified destruction of Serbian Orthodox churches calling them "political churches" in his interview to Caritas Vincenza in 2001, while his deputy Don Shan Zefi recently said that "below Orthodox churches lie the ruins of Albanian Catholic shrines". These aggressive statements only added more oil to the fire and were seen by Albanian Moslems as a "Catholic blessing" for them to continue the systematic destruction of Serbian Christian holy sites. The yesterday's meeting of the Council for Kosovo of the Serbian Synod of Bishops was, among other reasons, very much provoked by Rugova's recent visit to the Vatican and the very indecent behavior of the part of Roman Catholic clergy, including Sopi and Zefi.
In its yesterday's statement the Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church "noted with regret that there is increasingly greater anti-Serb and anti-Orthodox activity on the part of the Roman Catholic Church in Kosovo and Metohija, through which Ibrahim Rugova is attempting to draw Pope John Paul II himself into his plans for the secession of Kosovo and Metohija, thus further complicating the already complex issue of Kosovo and Metohija".
Although Serbian Orthodox Church and particularly its Diocese in Kosovo and Metohija in many of their statements publicly condemned damage made to mosques during the armed conflict between the Yugoslav security forces and the KLA in 1999, and were the first to initiate the dialogue after the war, Kosovo Albanian leaders and intellectuals still turn a blind eye to systematic destruction of centuries old Christian shrines which survived 5 centuries of Ottoman oppression. The churches are still attacked by grenades, many of them were looted while the Orthodox clergy and monastic communities continue living in ghettoes.
"The Orthodox Church is always ready for the dialogue, but it has to be based on sincerity, mutual acceptance and respect for traditions of others - exactly that what we do not see on the other side at the moment", said Bishop Artemije to the ERP KiM Info Service. "As long Roman Catholic Albanian clergy continue to deny even our most basic right to preserve our holy shrines and tradition no dialogue will be possible, I am afraid. Bishop Sopi is welcome only if he publicly denounces the incorrect statements which he and his associates uttered to the media", Bishop Artemije concluded.
"This is a test of sincerity for the Vatican", said one respected representative of the Patriarchate in Belgrade who wanted to stay anonymous. "If the Roman Catholics continue allowing to be manipulated by Kosovo Albanian secessionists, that would be a tragic mistake because the Orthodox holy sites in Kosovo are the corner stones of European Christian tradition and their extinction would open the door to radicalized Islamization of Europe. What fears us is the alliance between some radical Catholic clergy and Moslims on the expense of Orthodox Christian Serbs which existed in the Second World War in Kosovo and Bosnia under the Nazi flag. In any case this "unholy alliance", if it ever becomes a reality again, would not bring any good to Roman Catholics at the end either. We can see this in Bosnia today where they cope with Moslem fundamentalism and moujahedin who received Bosnian citizenship, although just few years ago Catholic Croats sided with Moslems against Serbs", concluded the representative of the Patriarchate.
Serbian Orthodox Church will continue its prayers and bearing witness of its suffering hoping that the spirit of love and tolerance will prevail one day over the blind hatred and attempts to create an ethnically clean Albanian society in Kosovo on the ruins of centuries old Christian holy sites and blood of innocent civilians.
Council for Kosovo and Metohija of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the
Serbian Orthodox Church
The Council for Kosovo and Metohija of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, chaired by His Holiness the Serbian Patriarch Kyr Pavle, met on December 23/10 [according to the Gregorian and Julian calendars, respectively], 2003 in the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade, and deliberated the latest conditions in the southern Serbian Province. The Council ascertained that the state of life security, human rights, freedom of movement and work, Serb returns, protection of the Church and people's Holy Shrines and property has remained unchanged, regrettably in the negative sense, during these more than four years that Kosovo and Metohija has been under the administration of the International Community.
The Council shares the great concern of the Serb community and the Serbian Church in Kosovo and Metohija as a result of the imposition of UNMIK's standards for Kosovo and Metohija (without acceptance of the Serbian positions on those standards), which completely ignore [UN] Security Council 1244 and pave the way for the complete Albanization and secession of Kosovo and Metohija, thus opening a Pandora's box of further expansion of the ultranationalistic idea of a "Greater Albania" which, if realized in phases, would bring lasting instability and unavoidable conflicts throughout most of the Balkans and in Europe. The Serb side in Kosovo and Metohija is asking for clearly measurable and concretely verifiable achievements and a timetable for their implementation, not just for declarative "standards". This means, first and foremost, the effective realization of the return of expelled and displaced persons to Kosovo and Metohija comprising no less than two-thirds of the total. Furthermore, the Council demands respect for individual, human, national and property rights, the protection of the Church and people's, and cultural heritage of the Serbian people and the Republic of Serbia, the return of illegally usurped property, the re-examination of the speeded up process of privatization, etc.
The Council reminds that the Serbian Orthodox Church has published its "Memorandum on Kosovo and Metohija", a document humane, honorable and presented in Christian fashion on the real problem of Kosovo and Metohija. The "Memorandum" is supported by the Serb community in Kosovo and Metohija, the Republic of Serbia and the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, as well as by respected and wise individuals in Europe and the world.
The Council also reminds that the Republic of Serbia has presented its "Declaration on Kosovo and Metohija", which has been supported by the Serbian Church as well as by the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. The Joint Coordinating Center of Serbia-Montenegro and the Republic of Serbia led by Mr. Nebojsa Covic has just issued a Resolution on the Protection of Serbian National Interests and Rights of the Republic of Serbia in Kosovo and Metohija (consisting of seven points and dated December 17, 2003), which has received the support of the Diocese of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija, and consequently also has the support of this Council.
the Bishop of Raska-Prizren and Kosovo-Metohija Kyr Artemije stated:
"The claim of some international and domestic 'preachers' that Serbia with Kosovo and Metohija cannot be a part of Europe and the world is untrue and tendentious. In fact, it is without Kosovo and Metohija, and with the open process of territorial disintegration which the secession of the southern province would inevitable entail, that Serbia would commit her historical suicide and the Serbian people would lose its deepest historical roots, which represent the foundation of its religious and national being."
The Council of the Holy Synod of Bishop is astounded by the partiality of responsible factors of the International Community toward the Albanian community in Kosovo and Metohija. Through their behavior, they are ignoring the Serbs and other people and communities that have lived there for centuries. The Council is also concerned by UNMIK's inactivity with respect to shedding light on numerous crimes (especially the murder and kidnapping of Serbs and others), as well as the destruction and desecration of Serbian Church and people's Holy Shrines (the latest instances of renewed desecration of the church in Susica, attacks on the church in Pristina and a bomb explosion in the church in Urosevac).
The Council also notes with regret that there is increasingly greater anti-Serb and anti-Orthodox activity on the part of the Roman Catholic Church in Kosovo and Metohija, through which Ibrahim Rugova is attempting to draw Pope John Paul II himself into his plans for the secession of Kosovo and Metohija, thus further complicating the already complex issue of Kosovo and Metohija.
The Council for Kosovo and Metohija appeals to responsible persons in the International Community, concretely, to UN high representative Mr. Holkeri but also to the United Nations and the Security Council, to demonstrate their fundamental human honor, impartiality and humaneness to all residents of Kosovo and Metohija equally, and that they refrain by their hasty solutions from making the tragedy of Kosovo and Metohija even more difficult today, in the near future and long term; therefore, that they do not impose unilateral and unjust solutions that will become a source of new and unforeseeable unrest and inhumanity in this region.
On the eve of parliamentary elections in Serbia, the Council of the Serbian Orthodox Church appeals to the conscience and conscientiousness of all political parties in Serbia, as well as in Kosovo and Metohija, that in fighting for a democratic and free Serbia in Europe and the world they under no circumstances succumb to proposals or threats; that they refuse to accept a Serbia crippled without Kosovo and Metohija; that they subordinate their party interests to the interests of the People and the Fatherland; that they do not manipulate the unfortunate Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija nor displaced Kosovans scattered throughout Serbia; that they remain at the level of the Kosovo oath, in the name of which the great leader Karadjordje began the liberation of Serbia two centuries ago.
We call our brothers and children in oft crucified but always resurrected Kosovo and Metohija to peace and harmony, to love and humanity toward all, wishing them even in this difficult situation in which they await Christmas and the New Year, the joy of the shepherds of Bethlehem and the light of the Star of Bethlehem of the Divine Refugee sheltered in a cave - Christ the Savior of every human being, all peoples and all of creation.
Coordination Center on
visit of Ibrahim Rugova to Vatican
Tanjug News Agency
Coordination Center for
Kosovo and Metohija assessed on Tuesday that the visit of Kosovo
President Ibrahim Rugova to the Vatican and his meeting with pope John
Paul II, with the aim of winning support from the pontiff for the
independence of Kosovo, showed "the huge quantity of zealotry and
political blindness of the Albanian leaders from Kosovo and Metohija."
Archbishop Hocevar: "The Catholic Church there is in minority and amidst a very delicate political process. Since the expectations and tendencies of the majority population (Albanian Moslems, ed.) are very different the Catholic community who always wanted to cooperate is under pressure".
We are enclosing some highlights from the longer Christmas interview of Archbishop Stanislav Hocevar, the president of the (Roman Catholic) Bishops' Conference of Serbia and Montenegro. Particularly interesting we find his views on the delicate relation between his Bishops' Conference and the Roman Catholic clergy in Kosovo as well as his opinion on the position and challenges of Kosovo Albanian Roman Catholics.
ERP KiM info-Service
Danas, Belgrade daily
(photo: Archbishop Stanislav Hocevar, the president of the R-Catholic Bishops' Conference of Serbia-Montenegro)
Danas: Although the Bishops' conference of Serbia and Montenegro condemns "crimes of any kind no matter from which side they were committed" do you think that a more concrete condemnation of the destruction of Orthodox churches would be of any help to the small Catholic community in Kosovo to articulate and witness its faith in a more distinct way.
S. Hocevar: The main precondition for the Bishops' conference to say anything more precisely, to demonstrate solidarity and speak about something is to have as stronger as possible partner in the dialogue, concretely the Catholic faithful who live in Kosovo. Regrettably, we have not come to that point that this small Catholic community can articulate its vision of future, mutual relations, its relations with the Catholic Church among other nations, with other Christians and religious communities. Our present position is that we should facilitate as much as we can the personal contacts so that the Church would be able to define itself and that the Bishops' conference could easier say everything that is necessary about the Church in Kosovo. On the other side there is an intensive dialogue between the Kosovo apostolic administrature with the Holy See via the Nunciature, which should help that the cooperation with the Bishops' conference becomes more adequate.
Danas: Why is the Administrature in Prizren regulating its relations with the Bishops' conference of Serbia and Montenegro via the Nunciature and the Vatican? Does it mean that it is already independent and what is the opinion of the Vatican regarding its canonical status having in mind actual political processes in Kosovo?
S. Hocevar: The Catholic Church is very careful and mindful institution and has established an Apostolic administrature to preserve its flock, because the faithful need their spiritual care as long as political situation has not cleared up. With the same reason (despite misunderstandings) the Apostolic exarchate in Vojvodina was created so that the faithful could have the constant presence of the Bishop which does not depend on his visa. Only when we see more stable political realities we will decide whether the administrature will be able to be promoted into a diocese or it will become a part of another diocese. The Apostolic administrature of Kosovo is directly subbordinated to the Holy See and is not a constitutive part of other metropolis as other normal dioceses. Although the Apostolic exarchate is not a part of the metropolis its Bishop is participating in the Bishops' conference. In this way the Church has more possibilities on one side to provide pastoral care for her faithful and on the other, according to the historical development, to create definitive structures.
Danas: Are the Catholics in Kosovo and Metohija endangered?
S Hocevar: Yes, because the Catholic Church there is in minority and amidst a very delicate political process. Since the expectations and tendencies of the majority population (Albanian Moslems, ed.) are very different the Catholic community who always wanted to cooperate is under pressure. That is the reason, I think, that President Rugova wants so much to encourage a dialogue between the Churches so that minority groups could express their vision in an easier way and more efficiently influence the overall life in the region.